China’s Enters its own “Bush-Cheney Phase”

bush cheneyAtlantic Monthly correspondent James Fallows has coined a wonderful expression to summarize a series of controversial Chinese decisions over the past year: the new “Bush-Cheney Phase.” The stunning news that Google and China are about to embark on a high-stakes face-off coming on the heels of Beijing’s more assertive stance at the U.N. climate conference along with the December sentencing of dissident Liu Xiaobo to 11 years in prison all prompt new questions as to whether we are entering a phase where the Chinese are far less concerned about how their decisions are perceived internationally.

The “Bush-Cheney” era in American politics was characterized by pure “Realpolitk” where needs of American national security interests were paramount.  When Fallows talks of China entering its own “Bush-Cheney” phase he is referring to a policy making style that is indifferent to external criticism, heavily influenced by hardline domestic factions and boldly assertive internationally.  If we apply the “Bush-Cheney” filter to the series of controversial decisions and policies coming from Beijing, there are some obvious parallels.  It will be interesting to see if the rest of the world reacts to China’s new policy stances the same way the Bush administration was received.

One final thought to consider today:  Chinese politics are rarely as centralized and coordinated as outside observers give them credit.  It is entirely possible that the sequence of events that have raised alarms here in the West are all happenstance.    It is easy for Americans to quickly over-react to Chinese policies and moderate its response in time.   That said, the Chinese public should brace themselves for a similarly vocal response to their policies as Americans received under their own unpopular “Bush-Cheney Phase.”

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